Baptism is perhaps the most misunderstood and misinterpreted concept in the Bible. There are those who would have us believe that baptism is not necessary for salvation. Others will say that it a good thing to do, and we really ought to, but it is strictly optional. Still others say that baptism is necessary, but only to join the local church.
Not only do Christians disagree on whether baptism is a necessary part of salvation, there is also disagreement as to the form and who should receive it. Some say that infants can, should, or even must be baptized. While others contend that one should be of the age of accountability. There is disagreement as to whether the form of baptism should be by immersion, sprinkling, or pouring.
All the disagreement noted above is purely on the part of mankind. The Scriptures are in full agreement on all these points. If one reads the New Testament he will find no place where more than one form of baptism is used and he will not find a multitude of opinions as to the necessity of baptism for salvation. So, let's see exactly what the Scriptures have to say about the subject of Baptism.
Is baptism necessary for salvation? Well, Jesus commanded it, and the apostles taught and practiced it. Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16) How much clearer must we have it said by the Lord Himself than this.
He clearly says salvation is dependant upon our being obedient and submitting ourselves to baptism. In another place Jesus told His disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19,20) Why would Jesus tell His disciples to baptize if it were not necessary? Don't you think that if the Lord had intended baptism to be optional that He would not have made such a strict command out of it here. And if it were not necessary at all, why would He even mention it here in what we call "The Great Commission."
We saw in the above passage that Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize. We see in the book of Acts that they did just that. We could call Acts the book of conversions, because only in this book do we see actual cases of people being converted to Christian. As a matter of fact, there are eight specific cases of people being converted in the book of Acts.
We believe, and teach, that salvation consists of five acts or actions on the part of the one being converted. These acts are, belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God; repentance; confession of one's faith before man; baptism; and faithful living till the end. In the eight occasions of conversions in the book of Acts, baptism is the only one that is specifically mentioned in each and every case. Let's take a look at each case and what is said concerning baptism.
The three thousand at Pentecost: "Then Peter said to them 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 2:38)
The Samaritans: "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done." (Acts 8:12,13)
The Eunuch: "Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?' Then Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him." (Acts 8:36-38)
Saul of Tarsus: "Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized." (Acts 9:18); and "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16)
Cornelius: "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days." (Acts 10:47,48)
Lydia: "And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.' And she constrained us." (Acts 16:15)
The Jailor: "And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized." (Acts 16:33)
Corinthians: "Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:8)
Again we say, how much clearer must it be for us all to agree that baptism is a necessary part of salvation? There are those who say that faith is all that is necessary. Then why does the book of acts show us that in every case recorded for us to learn from, baptism was practiced?
Who is baptism for? I have a dear friend who is in a brotherhood that teaches and practices infant baptism. Is baptism for infants? Or is baptism only for those who know the significance of the act and what it represents?
Let's consider those things which the Scriptures teach that must precede baptism. First, the person must believe. This is emphasized strongly by Jesus, read again Mark 16:16. Can an infant have faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God? Do you remember what you "believed" when you were just a few months old? How significant are those "beliefs" to you today? Can an infant be taught about God? Can an infant respond to that teaching? We all know the answer to these questions: Of course not! Another act which must precede baptism is repentance. Can an infant repent? Again, the answer is no. And for what sins would the infant be repenting for? Confession of one's faith that Jesus is the Son of God is another act which must precede baptism. It is equally clear that an infant cannot confess to have a faith that they are incapable of having.
So, who should (must) be baptized? If you still don't know the answer to this question, then you should read again the eight accounts of the people being converted in the book of Acts. This time read the full accounts. They are found in the following chapters of Acts: two, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, fifteen, sixteen, and eighteen. However, the answer is one who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; one who has repented for all the sins he/she has committed and strives to sin no more; and one who is willing to and has confessed his/her faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Only for these people is baptism appropriate, and a meaningful act. Remember, you can fool man most of the time, but you can never fool God!
The form of baptism is also the subject of much false teaching. Here again, the Bible is quite clear as to the form. The Greek word we translate as baptism is "baptizo." It means to dip, immerse or plunge. There is no one who is a serious student of the Word that can deny this fact. If Jesus had intended for the disciples to pour as a method of baptism, He would have used the word "ekcheo." But He didn't! If He had meant for the disciples to sprinkle He would have used the word "rantizo." But He didn't! And if He had intended for the method of baptism to be any and all of these He would have used the words interchangeably. But He didn't! God's word tells us the method of baptism: immersion, and that's all.
What does baptism do? Well, first of all it is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul tells us this in a beautiful way: "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:3,4) It is also a picture of birth, for Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)
Baptism is necessary for the remission of sins. In Acts chapter 2 the three thousand that responded to the gospel on that day had said, "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37b) "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)
Brothers and sisters, don't accept false teachings. Go to God's word for yourself and learn what It says about these and other subjects which are important to your salvation. May God be with you in your studies.
All scriptures quoted are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen Kingery is an author, preacher, teacher and founder of Be Ye Doers Of The Word. Visit our site at http://www.james1-22.org Permission to use is granted if attributed to author and his website.